Today is the day when Americans celebrate things and stuff... okay, I'm treading dangerous ground here, as there's really no safe way to describe Thanksgiving without potentially offending someone.
However, we can all agree that today Thanksgiving is less about the Puritans exploiting the kindness and generosity of Native Americans (please don't mention the smallpox blankets) than about trying to survive a far greater threat than any plague or war: our own families.
This is the time of year when Americans of all stripes brave hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic up and down the Interstate, and/or hours of uncomfortable commercial flying, only to spend the next few days wondering why in the world we went through such inconvenience for the privilege of surrounding ourselves with these people.
For the many who are currently seeking online refuge — and finding that their favorite blogs and websites are sadly unoccupied due to the holiday — we are pleased to offer salvation. Here, then, are a few places in which to find sanctuary, however temporary...
- The New York Times offers their list of Notable Books of the Year — 100 titles reviewed since their Holiday Books issue of Dec. 4, 2006. That's a lot of reading to catch up on. Here, I'll help you get started:
- Absurdistan. By Gary Shteyngart. (Random House, $24.95.) A young American-educated Russian with an ill-gotten fortune waits to return to the United States in this darkly comic novel.
- After This. By Alice McDermott. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24.) In her effectively elliptical novel, McDermott continues to scrutinize the lives of Irish Catholics on Long Island.
- Against the Day. By Thomas Pynchon. (Penguin Press, $35.) In Pynchon's globe-trotting tale, set (mostly) on the eve of World War I, anarchic Americans collide with quasi-psychic European hedonists and a crew of boyish balloonists, anticipating the shocks to come.
- Alentejo Blue. By Monica Ali. (Scribner, $24.) Ali's second novel revolves around the inhabitants of a southern Portuguese village.
- All Aunt Hagar's Children. By Edward P. Jones. (Amistad/HarperCollins, $25.95.) Several characters from Jones's first story collection return in this one, set mostly in Washington, D.C.
- Apex Hides the Hurt. By Colson Whitehead. (Doubleday. $22.95.) In this parablelike novel, a commercial "nomenclature consultant" is hired to name a Midwestern town, and his task turns into an exploration of the corruption of language.
- Arthur and George. By Julian Barnes. (Knopf, $24.95.) A metaphysical mystery starring Arthur (Conan Doyle), spiritual detective.
Look at that — we're not even through the A's yet, and already Uncle Bernie and Aunt Lillian are asleep in front of the TV, no longer regaling you with tales of bunyons and nosy neighbors and horrendous surgical procedures for body parts you didn't even know existed.
- When Cousin Ida starts in with all the useless trivia she consumed during her ten-hour flight, you can counter with your own list of ten essential girl geeks.
- Dodge Mom's ever-so-innocently leading interrogation ("When are you going to ___________?" — insert your own sphincter-clenching question) by plugging texts into Google Search and hunting for evidence of random plagiarism. Slate tells you how to do it!
- When all else fails, you can resort to the James Bond Marathon on Spike — and prove to your pushy, know-it-all brother that there actually was a far worse Bond than Timothy Dalton (hint: Lazenby).
Better yet, start reading the original Ian Fleming novels and imagine Sean Connery or Daniel Craig in all the films that were ruined by Roger Moore's campy smarm.
- Get a jump on your gift buying without shoving your way through those annoying crowds with our very own Holiday Shopping Guide.
Okay, shilling for Powells.com makes me feel a little dirty — but that's okay, because it means I can slip away from Grandmother Brockman's constant narration of every single thing on TV (imagine the worst DVD commentary ever, except you can never shut it off) to take a long, hot, soul-cleansing shower.
And with that, I bid you a very fond, happy, hopefully sane Turkey/Tofurky Day! May you survive all your relatives and never wonder how it is you could possibly be related to any of them.
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Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.
The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.
Books mentioned in this post